OCTOBER 24, 2013

It’s Mabel’s 1965 diary that I open once we’ve stopped at our teatime spot overlooking a loch unusually full of geese, swans and ducks. In ’65, Mabel and Ian were 40 and 39, respectively, and all was well in their world. They had two growing boys of 7 pushing 8 (me) and 5 going on 6 (John) and life on a Hamilton housing estate of owner-occupiers was proving to be satisfyingly sociable.

“OK, Dad. Give me a date at random.”

“27th of April.”

“OK, here goes: ’
Pam’s night for the sewing “Bee”. Ian’s new case arrived, it should do him for his London trips.“ If I remember correctly,” I add, “the sewing bee was a weekly meeting, usually in the afternoon, that the women of our end of Townhill Road attended.”

“A talking shop. Eh, Mabel?” offers Dad.

“Yes, Mum. No doubt the women trooping over to Pam Campbell’s on the night of April 27th, were told about the new briefcase as a way into discussing Dad’s trips to London and the prospects of his promotion. Actually, Dad, when you think about it, all the men in the street had jobs that involved them travelling away from home in the morning. While all the women were housewives.”

“It was still the era of 2.4 kids per two-parent household, with the man of the family the breadwinner.”

Mabel is looking blank. But there are degrees of blankness. She is sitting up straight and her eyes are open. If she’s not listening to the words flying backwards and forwards, then she’s as close to listening as she gets these days. I let my eyes flick through the
Woman’s Own diary until I get to this:

“Saturday, May 15.
‘Party at Nancy’s, there is going to be one every month in different houses. Ian and I took turn about of going. It was good fun but I should have eaten before I drank.’ I wonder when Mum actually wrote that. Because the next day the entry reads: ‘Felt terrible all day. I’m saying now that this is my last party.’

I turn around and confront my mother nearly fifty years after she wrote those words. “But it wasn’t your last party, was it, Mum?” No answer, so I search through the diary for further signs of Saturday parties. Wrong, first I join Mabel in the back of the car, feed her cake (two minutes) and tea (ten minutes) before getting back into the driver’s seat with the
Woman’s Own Diary.

“Saturday, 5 June. ‘
Well, the 13 women of our Sewing Bee set off at 5.15pm for Glasgow, we had a lovely meal and drinks in the Grosvenor then went to see the Five Past Eight Show, we had a great time, arriving home at 11.40pm.’”

Fine, but not a party as such.

Party at our House', is underlined for Saturday 14th of August. So let’s see what you’ve got to say about that, Mum: ‘Well I made sandwiches and savouries all afternoon but they looked OK when set out and were all eaten. Had the tape recorder on all night, twisting and dancing reels. The party broke up at 4.30am.’

“We bought the tape recorder a few days before the party,” Ian points out.

“Ah, yes,” I reply. “Mabel records the purchase of an Ultra tape recorder, sure enough. Apparently, in advance of the party, you took it to Louise and Bill Beveridge’s and recorded some of their pop records. And the next night you were at the Cherrymans’ taping Scottish stuff. You and Mum weren’t taking any chances over that party of yours, were you?”

Ian and Mabel are holding hands on the back seat of the car. Or at least Ian is holding Mum’s hand, as I search for the next of 1965’s parties. Ah here it is:

“Saturday, October 16. ‘
Duncan and John went to bed in Louise’s and that let the four of us get to the party at Joan Scott’s. One babysat for half an hour then got one-and-a-half hours at the party. We finished off at 3.30am.’ The next day Mabel writes that John and I came back for breakfast and that she felt very tired all day.”

Dad’s singing. What is that song? - yet another that he’s been singing all my life? Let me listen to the chorus:

“Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle my horses and call out my men.
Come open the West Port and let us gae free,
And we'll follow the bonnets o' bonnie Dundee!”

It seems like Dad’s in the mood for a party. Let’s see if I can oblige him:

“Saturday, November 20.
‘Party at Marion’s. The boys went in to sleep at Louises’s. I enjoyed the party as well as any we’ve had so far. I drank vodka and orange and felt very fit at 4am.’ You felt very fit at 4am, did you, Mum?”

Mabel doesn’t answer. But Ian does, in his own inimitable way:

“Dundee he is mounted, he rides up the street,
The bells they ring backwards, the drums they are beat;
But the Provost, (quiet man!), says, "Just e'en let him be,
For the toon is weel quit of that De’il Dundee."

‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, Nico sang in the mid-sixties. ‘All Yesterday’s Parties’ is where we’ve got to today.

The geese have taken off en masse. Off to a party that Mabel and Ian haven’t been invited to. That’s fine by my parents. They had their time in the sun.

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Marion's party. Ian in the brown shirt. Photo by Mabel.

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Marion's party. Mabel in the red dress. Photo by Ian.